PHILADELPHIA -- What a week.
Phillies ace Zack Wheeler and his wife Dominique welcomed their daughter Bambi into the world early Tuesday morning. Halfway across the country, Matt Vierling, who had been recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, flew from Omaha, Neb., to Chicago, then drove 90 minutes north to Milwaukee. Later that night, he hit a game-winning home run against Brewers closer Josh Hader, who had not blown a save in 11 months.
It would have been fine if their weeks ended there, but Wheeler and Vierling helped the Phillies beat Arizona on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, 4-0. The Phils have won nine consecutive games for the first time since July 29-Aug. 6, 2011.
The Phils (30-29) have a winning record for the first time since they were 3-2 on April 12.
“I was just hoping that it would get back around to me, and I could keep it going,” Wheeler said about the winning streak.
If it gets around to Wheeler again, it means the Phillies will be trying for a 14-game winning streak, which would be their longest since a franchise-record 16-game winning streak in 1892. (The Phils also had 16-game winning streaks in 1890 and 1887.) They had 13-game winning streaks in 1991 and 1977.
Wheeler pitched six scoreless innings against the D-backs, striking out eight and allowing two hits. He is 5-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his past eight starts, striking out 64 and walking 11 in 50 2/3 innings. He would have started the seventh, but Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson exercised caution following Wheeler’s hectic week.
“To come out here and perform well today, it’s icing on the cake,” Wheeler said. “I felt good for the most part. A little bit of rust, but it was fine. Good enough.”
Vierling played second base for the first time in his life because the Phillies wanted shortstop Didi Gregorius to rest after returning last Sunday from the injured list. The Phils thought Vierling had enough athleticism to handle a position he never played, even in Little League.
But when things are going well, these types of moves just seem to work.
It worked. Vierling was flawless. He fielded six ground balls, including one to end the game. He turned a force at second for the first one in the ninth. He caught a popup, too. Keep in mind, Vierling had started to take ground balls at second only recently at Triple-A. He took a few more this week in Milwaukee with the idea that he could play there on Saturday.
Vierling didn’t even use his own glove. His infielder’s mitt isn’t broken in yet, so he used one of Bryson Stott’s.
“It’ll find you,” Vierling said about all the action at second. “I kind of expected it. I had a feeling that if I’m out there, the ball is going to get hit to me a lot. Yeah, I’m glad it went well. I felt pretty comfortable out there. Every time you’re contributing, you feel great, you play better. It breeds more confidence.”
But it wasn’t just Wheeler and Vierling, of course. Teams don’t win nine consecutive games without a bunch of people contributing. Saturday, it was Nick Castellanos’ two-out single in the first to score Rhys Hoskins and Stott’s two-run homer to right in the second. It was Andrew Bellatti replacing Jeurys Familia with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh. Bellatti got pinch-hitter Ketel Marte to fly out to center field on a 1-2 slider.
Bellatti has been an under-the-radar find for the Phillies. He has a 3.57 ERA in 20 appearances.
“That was a pretty intense situation to come into,” Bellatti said. “I enjoyed it. I look forward to those again.”
Castellanos scored an insurance run in the eighth with a check-swing double down the right-field line. It scored Bryce Harper from first.
A couple weeks ago, these things weren't happening for the Phillies. The check swing would have gone foul. Maybe Vierling would've had some trouble at second.
“That’s the way it is, right?” Thomson said. “When you’re going good, you’re getting some breaks. You’re getting their defense to make some mistakes at times, and you capitalize on it. When you’re going bad, it’s just the opposite. Everything is rolling along pretty well right now. We’ve just got to keep it going.”